What Is Call Tracking? (And Why You Need It!)

By | October 12, 2020

The default call tracking solution from Google Ads often isn’t accurate and can miss up to 41% of calls. Adding advanced call tracking to your PPC campaigns can dramatically improve your results. In this article, we’ll show you how it works!

Did you know that up to 41%+ of the calls coming to your business from ads can get MISSED by poor tracking?

That’s exactly what happens with out of the box call tracking in Google Ads!

With any large platform, we tend to trust that they have it all figured out when it comes to proper tracking.

Based on our research, that’s far from the truth!

In today’s article, I’m going to show you how one of the biggest advertising platforms has a 14-41% margin of error when it comes to counting phone calls…

And I’ll show you to fix it!

What is Call Tracking?

Call tracking is a reporting system that allows you to track important details of calls coming to your business like who called, when they called, and more.

It’s often used in advertising like Google Ads (PPC) to attribute which calls came from which campaigns so you know what works and what doesn’t.

The Problem With Default Google Ads Call Tracking

Google has a default, out of the box, call tracking in Google ads, but it has some serious issues.

Google’s out of the box call tracking offers call details that only report:

  • The area code of the caller
  • Length of the call
  • Time of the call
  • Which keyword or campaign drove that call

Here’s an example of the report:

This presents a few problems:

  1. You don’t get the full number of the call to call them back
  2. You can’t listen to the call to monitor it
  3. Most importantly, this tracking misses up to 41%+ of the actual calls that are made!

So how do you fix this?

A Better Call Tracking Solution

The best way to fix the out-of-the-box tracking is to implement a separate, more advanced call-tracking solution.

There are a lot of options out there, and we vetted them all for you and landed on a great software called CallRail which we use for all our call tracking campaigns.

Callrail is a 3rd party software that allows us to build tracking numbers, and get important call details not available in the standard Google Ads call tracking.

For call tracking to work, we build a tracking number that automatically forwards the call to your main business line, allowing us to collect statistics on the phone call.

This allows us to collect more detailed information, like:

  • Exact Caller Number
  • Call Time
  • Call Length
  • Call Source
  • Call Recording

Here’s what it looks like:

This type of reporting gives much more detail, allows you to listen to calls, and most importantly is much more accurate based on our research.

The Benefits Of Using Advanced Call Tracking

There are tons of benefits to using advanced call tracking in your campaigns and we believe every paid ad campaign should include it!

Here’s why:

More Accurate Call Tracking

We’ve seen some vast discrepancies between out of the box Google Ads tracking and our upgraded call tracking system (using CallRail).

In fact, our advanced call tracking system is reporting between 14-40%+ more calls.

That means you’re able to:

  • Know who called
  • Call more people back
  • Optimize campaigns better

Killer Reporting Detail

In the past, with standard Google “Out Of The Box” tracking, you could see where calls were coming from, but you could not qualify them.

The old way of reviewing calls from Google was through their Call Details report.

With our advanced call tracking system, you get a whole new level of detail including:

  • Full phone number
  • Call time
  • Call length
  • Call campaign
  • Call recording

… all in one beautiful dashboard!

You can look at each phone call and see if they are qualified, export the call recording, or playback the call recording.

Call Recordings

The typical data that we get from calls like call length is nice, but it often misses important details like if the lead was actually qualified or not.

Listening to call recordings may seem weird, but trust me, it is one of the most powerful tools for optimizing your campaigns and team’s performance.

If we are hearing that prospects are interested in learning more about a specific service or feature then we can update the ad & landing page copy to show that our client offers that.

That one piece of optimization can help increase conversion rates but also bring in more qualified leads!

When diving into the recordings, you can now see which campaign produces the qualified leads, so now you can double down on those efforts.

A great example of this is below for a roofing company:

In the past, we’ve seen calls over 1-2 minutes can often be a positive lead indicator.

But gauging the quality of lead by solely the length of the call isn’t enough.

We want to know if the call was an actual qualified lead based on the content of the call.

In this example, the call that we tracked was over 6 minutes, which was great, but it was not for getting a new roof installed or repaired.

Instead, it was for roofing materials which this client did not service.

By having the recording, we were able to identify where this came from and optimize the campaign even more to help prevent future irrelevant calls like this, saving the client time and money!

Removing Junk Call Sources

The final element of call recordings that we use for optimization is figuring out where the junk leads are coming from.

Once again, with past Google call tracking, you could not qualify the leads, not with call recordings through Callrail.

Now you can review and turn off specific aspects of your PPC campaign that are bringing in those junk leads and save your team’s time.

After going through the recordings we have the ability to optimize the campaign at a whole other level.

Some of the optimizations we can make after listening to call recordings inclue:

  • Ad copy adjustments
  • Landing page copy adjustments
  • Offer adjustments
  • Follow up process adjustments
  • Keyword changes
  • And much more.

Call tracking provides killer insight into what’s actually happening with the campaigns.

Call Tracking Case Studies & Results

Finally, let’s dive into the discrepancies we have seen while running this system for our HOTH PPC clients over the past few months.

Client Experiment #1

The first set of results is from a Lawyer. Calls and qualified leads are the heart of this campaign.

Inside of Google Ads, we had 93 calls tracked, not bad, right?

Well, with that SAME phone number inside of Callrail, we had 142 calls tracked!

That is a 41% discrepancy in how Google’s “Out Of The Box” solution missed the mark.

In addition to more accurate call numbers, we were able to listen to the calls and made an important discovery:

We realized that most of the calls were going directly to the client’s voicemail and not being picked up by an actual person!

We were able to communicate this to the client and suggested to have a live receptionist who can take the incoming calls.

The client was ecstatic that we uncovered this very simple, but vital piece of information!

Client Experiment #2

Here’s an example of a law client of ours. New inbound calls are extremely important to the vitality of their business.

Inside of Google Ads, we had 44 phone calls tracked.

Inside of Callrail, we tracked 51 phone calls, a 14% discrepancy.

What was more important than the discrepancy was that we were able to make optimizations to this campaign based on the call data.

We originally had 2 campaigns set up for this, one state-wide and one focused on a local area.

When we listened to the calls, we found at the city-specific campaign was producing higher call volume and higher quality leads.

We reallocated a portion of the monthly budget to the city-specific campaign. We were now bringing in more qualified leads, and the client is seeing a higher ROI for his campaigns.

Client Experiment #3

We have a roofing company that wants as many qualified leads as possible for people looking to get a new roof installed.

Before call tracking was installed, we were hitting good metrics based on what we predicted for this competitive market.

When we installed call tracking through, we were able to identify further improvements to the campaign based on qualitative data in the actual calls.

In the calls, we heard prospects asking about competitors, jobs, and even roofing supplies

Editor's note

Now, we actually pre-optimize campaigns before we even begin in order to prevent this.

We use negative keyword lists to make sure we’re not showing up for these types of terms.

Additionally, as part of our post-launch optimization process, we check the search term report daily to add in new negative keywords to optimize campaigns.

With all that said, listening to calls gives us an entirely different data point – we were able to find negative keyword ideas that don’t even show up on the search term report based on what the callers were asking for.

This helps us in an whole new way to make sure you’re getting quality leads – not just hitting the numbers.

With this new data, we were able to add in new negative keywords for specific competitors, jobs, and supplies.

After we did this we continued to monitor call quality and we’re able to see a substantial improvement.

This is a really important differentiation; the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

At the end of the day, you don’t just want a bunch of leads. You want quality leads.

That’s why call tracking can make all the difference in a campaign like this!


When you’re spending money on PPC, it’s important to get as much data as possible to optimize your campaigns and advanced call tracking something we believe everyone should have! Adding this helps eliminate wasted efforts, keeps quality on track, and keeps leads rolling in the right direction.

There is no reason to be missing the mark by 40% or more on campaign reporting!

Want some help with your PPC campaigns? Check out HOTH PPC!

Karl Bartling is the PPC Manager @ The HOTH and holds over 7+ years of experience running paid traffic campaigns. Before joining The HOTH, Karl ran his own successful agency, attracting well-known clients such as Kevin Harrington (Shark Tank).  Karl holds multiple certifications including Google Ads, Google Analytics, SEMRush Advertising, and more. Learn more about HOTH PPC here.

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